Emmerich Knoll: Great white wines from Austria

Emmerich Knoll: Great white wines from Austria

It is on the banks of the Danube in Austria that we find Emmerich Knoll. Coming from a winegrower's family, he has defended local viticulture for many years with its emblematic grape varieties such as Grüner Veltliner.

Emmerich, you are the third Knoll generation to produce wine. However, your family has been cultivating vines for centuries. When did it really start and how did it evolve?

Originally from Upper Austria, my family arrived in the Wachau region in 1824. They settled in Unter-Loiben, a small village on the banks of the Danube. For a very long time, they worked and lived on a small farm where wine was the main activity. After the Second World War and until the end of the 1950s, they sold almost all of their production in the family restaurant.

It was from 1961 that the trade in our wine really began. It was during this period that the bottles were decorated with the label which is still used. Very distinctive, it represents Urban, the patron saint of winegrowers and vineyards. Since then, our vineyard has grown from 4 to 18 hectares today.

You are located in the Wachau, in the north-east of Austria, and you probably cultivate some of the best plots in the region. What are the main characteristics of the climate and terroir?

More precisely, our vineyard is located 90% in Unter-Loiben and Dürnstein, the easternmost villages of the Wachau, and around 10% in Pfaffenberg, about a hundred kilometers to the west.

The two terraced sites, Loibenberg and Pfaffenberg, are among the warmest terroirs in the region. The soil is dominated by pure, but poor, crystalline gneisses of very shallow depth.

On Loibenberg we also find deeper loess layers, this is where most of the Grüner Veltliner is found. On the terraced Kellerberg it is much cooler, because this site is oriented east-southeast to southeast. The same winds coming from the north of the Waldviertel region cool Kellerberg as well as Schütt.

Kreutles is dominated by loess, mixed with some primary rock gneiss which comes from Loibenberg. This is one of the most typical Grüner Veltliner styles, relatively light.

You make wines for aging. When are the best times to taste them?

It's good anytime! This way you can really see the life of the wine.

For Federspiel, I would say up to 10 years. However, most of our wines are consumed rather young. For the Smaragd range, the wines can be kept for 10 to 20 years, but can also be consumed a few months after bottling. There can be a lot of variation depending on the vintage, knowing that our wines spend 5 to 8 months on the lees.

Your production mainly focuses on two main grape varieties, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. What is the specificity of Austrian Riesling and what is the identity of Grüner Veltliner?

Grüner Veltliner is by far the most important variety in Austria. It has slightly larger clusters and its production is generous. With some yield control, Grüner Veltliner brings different levels of maturity. You should know that Wachau classifies its wines according to their alcohol levels. Below 11.5°, they are Steinfeder. Between 11.5° and 12.5°, these are the Federspiel. And above 12.5°; these are the Smaragd. The Federspiel we produce are medium-bodied, very elegant and spicy. The Smaragd are ripe, intense and long-lasting, among the most interesting Austrian wines marked by their terroir. Acidity levels are lower than Riesling, but the variety responds just as well to different soils and climates as Riesling.

Our Riesling is always dry, precise and probably a little richer than other international Rieslings. It represents even better than Grüner Veltliner the crystalline minerality of gneiss and is, through its resistance to water stress, the grape variety par excellence for the steepest terraced hillsides.

Both bring wonderful sweet wines to beautiful vintages.

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